One of my favorite teachers in seminary, Rev. Robert Brumet, once said in class that "We are healed in relationship, because we are wounded in relationship". It felt insightful enough that I wrote it down, and committed it to memory. And my own experiences, both in ministry and in life have confirmed the deep truth of this statement. So it would seem that what we are called to do, then, is to find those places we have been wounded, and engage the relationship from which the wounds sprang, in order to heal them. But this is not always easy.
In my own life, it would be fair to say that I was wounded in my relationship with my father. One of the things for which I am most grateful is the fact that before he died, not only did we heal our relationship, but I counted him my best male friend (at least in the state of Florida, where we lived) at the time of his death. And one of the gifts I received from that healing was not only a greater insight into how he had been so harmful earlier in my life, but how I had a similar capacity for causing harm through unconscious living, as well. I did not immediately take advantage of that knowledge, but since moving into recovery from alcoholism, it has been enormously beneficial.
I also have to mention my relationship with my former wife and partner in ministry, Christine. When we divorced, it was a huge blow both personally and professionally. I was deeply in grief for a year and a half. It affected every moment of my life; some days, it felt painful just to breathe. Fortunately, Christine is a good enough and strong enough person to help me work through my grief, to remain my friend, and to honestly and without attachment be willing to stay in relationship with me, even as that relationship has changed form, and no longer resembles the romantic partnership we once had. A year ago, at Edwene Gaines' minister's retreat, we spent a good deal of time together working out our feelings, and I came home and found myself able to enjoy life and ministry again in a way I hadn't since she left.
Which leads me to our church. Over the years, as is often the case, many people who have come through the doors of the church and who have formed a relationship with the church, its members, or its minister have in some way been wounded in that relationship. It happened when Rev. Jerry was here; it happened when Rev. Mark was here; it has happened since I've been here. It has (to my knowledge) been almost universally unintentional, but it has happened nonetheless. Unfortunately, what has all too often happened when that occurred is that the injured party has simply left the church, without seeking healing or reconciliation of any kind. And since, as Rev. Robert so eloquently pointed out, "We are healed in relationship...", most of those who have left have remained unhealed.
With my mobilization and deployment to the Persian Gulf less than a month away, our Board of Trustees and I feel it important that we create a space for as much healing of our church as is possible, in order for it not only to survive this next year, but to be able to thrive in this next year and beyond. To that end, we have invited the Unity Southeast Regional Representative, Rev. Beth Head, to come to Birmingham this weekend for a time of healing. This Saturday, Rev. Beth will be leading us in "Healing Our Past; Creating Our Future" beginning at 9:30 AM at the church. Much of the work will be done in small groups; safe spaces for everyone to say what is on their mind and in their heart. We will come back together as a whole, and the groups will report their findings, so that we can get a glimpse of the "big picture", and identify systemic issues we will want to address. And we will continue the conversation into the service on Sunday, and the Town Hall Meeting that will follow it, the last such meeting we will have before I deploy.
If you currently attend our church, or if you have attended in the past and left because you felt wounded in any way, I invite you to come and be with us in community this Saturday for this time of healing. For those of you who have left, this time might lead to reconciliation; it might not. That is not its purpose. Its purpose is healing. Christine and I have proven that healing doesn't always lead to reconciliation, but how much better it is to live from a healed heart! I look forward to seeing you this weekend, and beyond, as we continue to build a loving, healing, inclusive, joy-filled family.
With much love and many blessings,